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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Heather N. Kesling v. Hubler Nissan, Inc., an 11-page, 5-0 opinion in which the oral argument was heard May 16, 2013, Justice Rush writes:

An auto dealership’s advertisement of an inexpensive used car as a “Sporty Car at a Great Value Price,” is textbook puffery—not actionable as deception or fraud, because a reasonable buyer could not take it as a warranty about the car’s performance or safety characteristics. But when the dealer has inspected the car and should know it has serious problems, answering a buyer’s question about why it idled roughly by claiming that it “would just need a tune-up” may be actionable as fraud. We therefore hold that the buyer’s fraud claim survives summary judgment, even though her deception claims cannot. * * *

Mere “puffing” is a statement of opinion, not a representation of fact, and thus cannot be the basis of deception or fraud claims. But stating that a car “would just need a tune-up,” in the face of actual or constructive knowledge that it had far more serious problems, does represent a fact—and therefore may be the basis of a fraud claim when a seller gives it as a knowingly incom-plete answer to a buyer’s specific question. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Hubler as to Kesling’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and Crime Victim’s Relief Act claims; reverse its grant of summary judgment as to Kesling’s fraud claim; and remand to the trial court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 29, 2013 03:36 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions